Learning Plans & Activities
Guiding Questions
Teaching Elementary Students Real-Life Inquiry Skills

This lesson plan and corresponding reproducible appear in Teaching Elementary Students Real-Life Inquiry Skills by Kristy Hill. In this book, Hill provides guidelines that elementary students can use to evaluate resources for accuracy and credibility, explains how to teach students not only where to look for information but also how to gather and use that information, offers lesson plans that build research and note-taking skills, and teaches inquiry as a mode of learning. Learn more at https://www.abc-clio.com/ABC-CLIOCorporate/product.aspx?pc=A5694P.

Hill explains how to use the lesson plans in the book:

The simple and engaging lessons are meant to be scaffolded from kindergarten through sixth grade. For younger students, the lessons might look more like the teacher or librarian modeling the steps and ideas, or it might look more like a whole group activity. After proper modeling, older students should be able to engage in the lessons independently or in small groups. There is no right or wrong way to do the lessons. Your professional judgment and knowledge of your students and curriculum requirements will help you determine how best to present and conduct the lessons.

Guiding Questions

Objective: Students will create meaningful questions to guide their research.

Materials Needed: library journals and Guiding Questions Graphic Organizer reproducible and example:


Even advanced researchers need to put careful thought and planning into formulating meaningful questions. For beginners this activity is best done as a whole group and repeated as often as possible. This type of questioning should become routine in the classroom and in the library, and the goal is that students autonomously utilize critical thinking and evaluating skills to develop questions that guide their research.

When teaching students to develop guiding questions, consider the following:

  • Begin research with a question instead of a topic. Adults are better able to organize large chunks of information. It's easier for us to Google a topic and then sift through the information that we find and filter what is needed from what isn't. Children will understand the research process better and will be more likely to adopt research as their preferred method of learning if they begin with a question.
  • When students find answers to their questions, they will be intrinsically motivated to continue researching. It's like a little pat on the back for each step in their research process.
  • Guiding questions should be questions that cannot be answered with a "yes" or "no." They should also be questions that cannot be answered with a one-word answer or in an immediate Internet search. Teach students to ask open-ended questions that will guide their research. The best questions will have answers that lead to other questions.
  • Choose a topic.
  • Write three questions that you would like to have answered about your topic.
  • Evaluate questions—ask yourself: Can my questions be answered with a "yes" or "no"? If so, rethink your questions. These questions should be based on information that you are truly interested in learning about and that can add depth to your knowledge of your topic.


  1. What are some guiding questions you would like to research?
  2. Can the question be answered with a "yes" or "no"?
  3. Can the question be answered immediately through a quick Internet search?
  4. Is the question something that is really interesting to you?
  5. Why do you want to learn about this topic?


  1. What is the difference between a guiding question and a trivia question?
  2. Describe the process of creating a guiding question. Was it easy? Difficult? What was the most challenging part of coming up with your guiding questions?

About the Author

Kristy Hill, MLS, is an elementary school librarian on a K-4 campus, as well as a writing instructor for teachers in Keller ISD in Keller, TX. She co-authored Guided by Meaning in Primary Literacy: Libraries, Reading, Writing, and Learning and is working on her second book, Teaching Elementary Students Real Life Inquiry Skills. Kristy was awarded the 2018 Abydos International Sue German Award for her contributions to libraries and writing instruction.

MLA Citation Hill, Kristy. "Guiding Questions." School Library Connection, November 2010, schoollibraryconnection.com/Home/Display/2230094?childId=2230097&topicCenterId=1955265&tab=1.

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Entry ID: 2230097

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